The red tractor can be seen slowly making its way off the pristine greenfield and heading towards the sheds, there’s not much movement to be seen except for the old man who belies his age wearing yellow and systematically placing the corner posts into the ground as he ponders the night ahead.
The light is beginning to fade and the ground manager can be seen limping towards the dressing room carrying bags, its wheels screeching as he pulls. The shirts are methodically hung, each one number specific chronologically placed, so as to adhere to his dressing room protocol. This is done in silence and the room cannot be violated until his work his done.
There is no number nine or thirty-two tonight, both jerseys remain neatly folded and not required tonight due to the rigours of three games in seven days.
There is anticipation in the air as players and team officials can be seen mulling in the foreground high fives and warm embraces abound and the sounds ‘and smell of fresh cooking chips crackles in the night light bringing supporters to its dimly lit destination.
The game is only an hour away and the players look relaxed confident in the knowledge that their preparation has been faultless and the eagerness of the team is matched by the coach who struts a lonely figure his book in hand as he mulls over the selection of his Stormers.
The players are finally seated, the nervous pees have been done. The silence is palpable, the white board full, it contains all the information and the game is nigh. The coach’s words are soothing – poignant and relevant to each one. There are nods of approval and with a final clinch, backslap and handshake the players troop out onto the pitch. By now the lights are blazing and for the first time it’s a chance to look your opponent in the eye.
The players march as soldiers, two by two, and line up as one, facing the cameras they peel off, the handshake which is not meant to be firm just an acknowledgment of a sporting protocol formulated in some shiny office in downtown Geneva, Switzerland.
The two captains meet and a coin is flipped and in a strange ritual the players meet for one last time, huddled together, arms locked together with head bowed. The chant of “Stormers” echo’s over the still air and with a shrill of a shiny whistle the game is on.
The Reds are running down the hill and game begins and as you would expect in this top table clash the ball is bouncing from one end the other. No team has the early ascendancy it’s a period of trying to psyche out your opponent each team trying to find a weak spot that will expose any deficiency.
There are five men – each with a drink in hand standing around a refuse bin. The night is eerily quiet and the ground sits in darkness. The rooms have been swept and the conversation soon turns to the nights events. The score 3-0 all agreed was a true reflection of the game.
Each had a story, and after each spoke laughter would erupt – “there was no way Jake meant that header to go in, I am sure he was trying to get it back across goal to Clint” was the comment that evoked the most glee, and what about La Carta! each man to one shook his head in agreement. On another day he would /could have scored three. Maybe after that overhead attempt in the first half
he should have been tested for concussion evoked a chorus of delirious glee, and with that the drinks were downed and each one sauntered off into the darkness and home, satisfied job done.
Retribution had been served, eight points clear albeit having played a game extra and a truly dominant performance on the night.